By Craig B. Simonsen

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has just published a “comprehensive step-by-step guide” intended for both employers and employees to help understand the OSHA’s respiratory protection standard (standard). The Small Entity Compliance Guide for the Respiratory Protection Standard is 124 pages of explanation including a sample program, checklists, and FAQs.

OSHA notes in the introduction to this guide that it is “advisory in nature, informational in content, and is intended to assist employers by using plain English to explain each provision of the standard, whenever possible. However, technical terms that apply to respiratory protection have legal definitions, as set forth in the Respiratory Protection standard. In this guide, whenever these terms are used, they are used only as they are legally defined.”

OSHA indicates that the recently updated standard now provides the regulated community with:

  • A complete set of definitions that will eliminate confusion about terminology and how these terms apply to respirators and their use;
  • Criteria for selecting respirators;
  • Revised Assigned Protection Factors (APFs); and
  • Updated Maximum Use Concentrations (MUCs)

According to OSHA the revised APFs standards clarify when employers may safely place employees in respirators that impose less stress on the cardiovascular system (e.g., filtering facepiece respirators). It indicates that many of these alternative respirators may have the additional benefit of being less expensive to purchase and operate.

OSHA concludes by pointing out that small employers may reach out at no cost to the OSHA Consultation Service that will provide assistance to help them identify and correct hazards, and to improve their injury and illness prevention programs.